Friday, 25 April 2014

Challenge Cup Fifth Round Preview

After a bumper Easter weekend, Super League takes a break with nine of the fourteen sides taking part in the fifth round of the Tetley's Challenge Cup.

The weekend begins with the televised tie between Leeds and St Helens, a game that will mean an early exit for one of the competition's top sides and the chance for Leeds to avenge the defeat from the last meeting between the two in the Super League.

Leeds go into the game in stunning form that has seen them displace tomorrow's opponents at the top of Super League including an Easter double against Bradford and Salford while St Helens went from nine wins in a row to two successive defeats against fierce rivals Wigan and former landlords Widnes.

Leeds secured their place in this round with a comfortable 60-6 win over Yorkshire rivals Wakefield while St Helens secured a late controversial 17-16 win away to Huddersfield who were angered by a Walsh drop goal that came after a drop goal from Brough was denied at 16 all.

Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Ablett, Sinfield, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Singleton.

St Helens: Lomax, Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Amor, Wellens, Walmsley, Percival, Greenwood, Richards, Thompson.

This game has the makings of a tasty encounter and St Helens will be eager to avoid a third consecutive loss but Leeds just look too strong so Leeds 28 Saints 22.

Tomorrow's other tie sees an all Championship tie between Swinton and Keighley with the two sides due to meet in the league in a fortnight so both will be eager to claim an advantage  in ending their opponents cup run.

Keighley have reached this stage for the first time in a while after a comfortable 54-28 win over fellow Championship side Barrow while Swinton narrowly edged out Championship One side York 31-28 so will be looking for a better performance against a stronger side.

Both sides have has mixed records in the Championship this year so there is not clear favourite going into the tomorrow's match.

For some reason, the 19's for both sides are unannounced despite less than 24 hours before kick-off so prediction wise I will go with form, Swinton 22 Keighley 24

Sunday features seven Super League sides, four Championship sides and sole representative from Championship One and it is the latter where I will begin.

Hunslet Hawks make the trip to face holders Wigan Warriors with the visitors being heavily written from all sides other than their own fans of course as they try to bridge a massive financial gap between the teams.

One view that has ticked off the Hawks faithful and myself was the preview from Sky Sports pundit Phil Clarke who basically labelled the tie as a non- contest and even went as far as saying that it is unfair to charge people for such a game.

Hunslet come into the game with only one defeat all season and with 300+ fans booked to come to the DW on Sunday all eager to have an enjoyable day regardless of the result opposing the aforementioned view and to reach the fifth round from Championship One will be a rich reward for the Hawks.

Proof of the respect from Wigan is shown in the fact that Shaun Wane has selected a strong squad for the game with Bowen, Crosby, Smith and Burgess all returning while Sutton retains his place and fellow academy product Austin is included.

Wigan Warriors: Austin, Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Clubb, Crosby, L. Farrell, Gelling, Hampshire, Hughes, James, Manfredi, McIlorum, S. Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Sutton, Taylor, Williams.

Hunslet: Kain, Mapals, Watson, Maun, Akaidere, Grimshaw, Ansell, Houston, March, Stenchion, Broughton, Oakes, Mackay, Reed, Lyons, Brickwood, Tebb, Hood, Cook.

I see Wigan winning but with Hunslet showing a lot of fight so Wigan 70 Hunslet 12.

An all Championship tie sees league leaders Leigh host second placed Featherstone in what will be the first of two meetings in a row, with a league game between the two next weekend.

Both sides have had superb starts to the season with Leigh with a 100% record and 'Fev' with only two defeats from nine games, Leigh secured their place in this round with a 28-22 win against Rochdale while Featherstone eased into round five with a 66-0 demolition of North Wales.

Leigh - No squad announced currently.

Featherstone - Ian Hardman, Will Sharp, Etu Uaisele, Greg Worthington, Ben Hellewell, James Mendeika, Andy Kain, Gareth Moore, Kyle Briggs, Andy Ellis, George Flanagan, Matt James, Keegan Hirst, James Lockwood, Andy Bostock, Gavin Bennion, Matty Dale, Tim Spears, Jamie Cording.

As both sides are in good form this could be close but Ii will go for Leigh 30 Featherstone 24.

In the first of two Super League/Championship clashes, Doncaster make the trip to face Warrington with the Super League side wounded by a heavy defeat to Castleford on Monday while the visitors will be buoyed after a win against rivals Sheffield Eagles.

Doncaster are in great-form and sit third in the Championship so will not be a walkover for Warrington who themselves have had a mixed start with six wins from eleven but are vulnerable at home with notable defeats to Wigan, St Helens and most recently Hull KR, something Doncaster will hope to take advantage of on Sunday.

Warrington will hope to edge closer to a fourth final appearance in six years with a win over in--form Doncaster and have named a strong squad as a result which will surely spur the visitors on to spring a surprise win.

Warrington: Asotasi, Atkins, Bridge, Currie, Dwyer, England, B. Evans, R. Evans, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J. Monaghan, M. Monaghan, O'Brien, Penny, Ratchford, Riley, Russell, Waterhouse.

Doncaster: Carbutt, Cooke, Edwards, Green, Kent, Kesik, Leaf, Morrison, Robinson, Sanderson, Scott, Starling, Spaven, Spiers, Waterman, Welham, Wildie, Wilkinson, Wilson.

I think Warrington will come out on top but Doncaster will give them a good game so Warrington 44 Doncaster 18. 

The second cross-league tie sees Castleford host Sheffield with the hosts in great-form in the Super League while the visitors are in mixed form with four wins from seven in the Championship.

Castleford advanced with a 48-10 win over neighbours Batley while Sheffield thrashed London Skolars 70-28 in the highest scoring contest of the fourth round but one clear negative for Sheffield is that Castleford are a side to be feared at home with only one defeat and with a notable over Wigan and earlier this week against Warrington.

Castleford will look to use their red-hot home form to propel them into the last eight but will be wary of Sheffield who could spring a surprise as despite their mixed form they are the reigning Championship Grand Final winners and as such cannot be underestimated.

The hosts include Kirk Dixon, Justin Carney, Oliver Holmes, Liam Finn and Ben Reynolds in place of Andy Lynch, Weller Hauraki, Richard Owen, Michael Channing and Dan Fleming are all relieved of their duties. Jack Blagbrough, Jon Ford and Menzie Yere all make way as James Davey, Corey Hanson and Alex Palmer join the travelling party.

Castleford Tigers: Tansey, Dixon, Shenton, Webster, Carney, Sneyd, Milner, Huby, Millington, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis, Gibson, Clare, Finn, Reynolds.
Sheffield Eagles: Lauulu-Togagae, Burke, Hanson, Straughier, Turner, Walker, Brambani, Lillycrop, Henderson, Stringer, Aspinall, Garside, Taulapapa, Owen, Green, Davey, Tagaloa, Palmer, Ashton.

This could be a real cracker of a game but I see Castleford coming out on top so Castleford 48 Sheffield 20.

The final two ties are all Super League ties and I begin with what could be classed as a derby as Salford host Widnes with the visitors in the better form after a Easter Monday win over St Helens.

Salford have been in transition since the appointment of Iestyn Harris with one win in three and have made a number of loan signings including Logan Tomkins (Wigan) and today's acquisition of Greg Eden with both going into the squad for Sunday.

Widnes have surprised many this season and sit fifth in Super League but go into the tie as underdogs and sealed their place with a comeback win over Halifax in round four while Salford squeezed past Hull via a golden point win by 37-36.

Salford welcome back Gleeson, Hansen and Puletua while Eden and Tomkins are included in the 19 while Clough returns for Widnes after being unable to face his parent club on Easter Monday.

Salford: Smith, Rapira, Eden, Sa'u, Hansen, Fages, Chase, Platt, Gleeson, Hock, Lee, Mullaney, J. Walne, Puletua, Tasi, Morley, Meli, Tomkins, Griffin.

Widnes: Allen, Brown, Clough, Clarke, Dean, Flynn, Galea, Gerrard, Gore, Hanbury, Isa, Johnson, Kavanagh, Leuluai, Marsh, Owens, Phelps, Tickle, White.
 A hard one to call but I feel Salford are due a win and may get it on Sunday so Salford 28 Widnes 22.  

The final game of the round sees two contrasting sides as Bradford host Catalan with the hosts coming off the back of an Easter nightmare with heavy defeats to Leeds and notable an 84-6 loss to Wigan on Easter Monday while Catalan are in red-hot form after an Easter double.

Last week, I said a trip to Wigan was the last thing Bradford needed and how right I was but this weekend they host Catalan who despite being in brilliant form may be affected by the long journey from Perpignan.

Bradford eased into the fifth round with a 60-6 win over Oldham while Catalan beat London 40-24 in Perpignan. Both sides will be eager to have a cup run after mixed starts to the season and have a rich history in the competition with final appearances in the 2000's.

Bradford welcome back Matt Diskin, Luke George, Jamie Foster and Adam Sidlow while Pitts has joined on loan and Fakir is in line to face his former club while for Catalan, Mounis and Lima are replaced by Bousquet and Guasch with Whitehead making a return to his former club.

Bradford Bulls: Bates, Henry, Olbison, Purtell, Gale, Fakir, Kear, Walker, George, Mellor, Diskin, Pitts, Foster, Manuokafoa, Addy, Gaskell, Sidlow, Kearney, O'Brien.
Catalan Dragons: Escare, Pryce, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Taia, Anderson, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Pala, Bousquet, Paea, Baitieri, Duport, Garcia, Guasch.